View Full Version : 9/11 widow to sue AA

9th Apr 2002, 09:08
Heard today that a widow of one of those who died on the 90th floor is to sue AA for 'failure to prevent the hijaking'.

I have a feeling she won't be the last.

What odds on AA and United surviving this if she wins?

9th Apr 2002, 09:40
Absolutely pathetic this American attitude to claiming. As if there were people in AA or any other airline planning to have an aircaft flying into a tower.. :mad:

Here is the ATI article:

WTC victim's husband sues American Airlines
Karen Walker, Washington DC (08Apr02, 21:37 GMT, 308 words)

American Airlines faces a $50 million lawsuit from the husband of a woman who was in the World Trade Center on 11 September and died after one of its aircraft was crashed into the building.

The lawsuit is believed to be the first to be brought against either of the two airlines involved – American and United Airlines - on behalf of someone who was in the World Trade Center and killed as a result of the terrorist attacks.

Some lawsuits have been filed by families of victims onboard aircraft used during the attacks, including one by the wife of a passenger on the United aircraft that was crashed into the World Trade Center by hijackers.

According to reports on this latest lawsuit, filed today in New York, the husband of Bonnie Shihadeh Smithwick is seeking $50 million in compensatory damages from American and unspecified punitive damages for the terror, pain and suffering, wrongful death and economic loss resulting from her death.

Smithwick was working on the 93rd floor of the World Trade Center when the American aircraft struck by the tower. Although she survived the impact, and telephoned her husband, she was unable to escape from the building and died when it collapsed.

Families of attack victims must give up their rights to sue and seek damages if they take part in the 11 September Victims Compensation Fund and receive money from that fund. However, the amount of money paid to each relative from the government relief fund is based on factors that include the family’s wealth status and the amount of life insurance they can claim.

In the Smithwick case, it is believed that she was a highly-paid manager who had substantial life insurance. Consequently, according to her husband’s lawyer, no compensation is available to him.

American Airlines declines comment, saying it never comments on pending litigation.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news

9th Apr 2002, 09:49
My apologies, widower and 93rd floor.

It seems that when it comes to litigation, there are no real winners. If he does win the case and the $50 mil, who pays?
If the airlines are forced to raise their insurance premiums to such a level that the airline goes broke then everyone loses.

There has to be a better way out of this mess than a few thousand lawsuits raking over the ashes to find all the money they can salvage.

Who pays?
Who wins?
Who loses?

9th Apr 2002, 10:03
......but if she had "substantial private life insurance", then what does her hubby need financial compensation for????? :confused:

Shurley shome mishtake....?? :mad:

9th Apr 2002, 11:12
Absolutely right swashplate,

The whole point of the Tort laws is to provide compensation for loss. This is not in addition to insurance.

Of course the losses of all involved are tragic, but money can never compensate for loss of life. It is about time that the judiciary here and in the US stepped back from this appalling misuse of a legal system designed to compensate fairly for all. Large payments to a few individuals will inevitably be borne by increases in insurance/tax etc for the innocent who remain.

Furthermore how could any airline realistically have foreseen and made provision to avoid the terrible events of 9/11?

Perhaps only by intervention of governments will this legal culture of greed be overcome.

Big Tudor
9th Apr 2002, 11:38
Although she survived the impact, and telephoned her husband, she was unable to escape from the building and died when it collapsed

If action is taken then surely it should be against the company who constructed the towers not the airline.

There is something very unsavoury about lawsuits of this nature. Whilst I sympathise with the individual concerned ( I cannot even comprehend the sense of loss that people must feel in this situation) one wonders whether the case would be brought if the sums of money were not so large. Would the case still be so attractive if AA offered the gentleman and his family free first class travel for life (up to the value of USD50 million)?

9th Apr 2002, 12:42
As the claimant clearly does not need the money since he has substantial income and the poor lady killed had considerable life insurance, I can only presume the intention of taking legal action is to put the airlines concerned on trial.

AA and UA will then be forced to prove to the court and jurors that they took reasonable action at the departure airports to prevent known terrorists boarding and taking knives on-board etc. As the risk of hijack of civil aircraft is entirely foreseeable the airlines will need to show they had taken the risk seriously and had adopted appropriate security measures to prevent it happening. This will surely be the focus of the case.

The novel issue with 9/11 is that the aircraft themselves were subsequently used as weapons - prior to 9/11 it could be argued that this was not foreseeable (although in fact some imaginative writers and film makers had foreseen this as a possible terrorist plot for a book/film several years previously). However had the original hijack been prevented, then the twin towers could never have been attacked in this manner and the lady concerned would not have died. Whether or not the attack on the World Trade Center was foreseeable is not the issue - the potential for hijack was completely foreseeable and the airlines will need to prove they had adequately defended against it. That will be very tough -since they clearly they did not adequately defend against it.

During the case the facts of the tragedy will be tested to see if the airlines were or were not culpable, and if so to what degree. But what about those other organisations who should share some of the liability?

It might be interesting to see who else AA and UA implicate during the trial, in their defence. What did the FBI do to apprehend these known terrorists before they could undertake their attack? Why did US Immigration allow them into the country in the first place? How come several of the terrorists had been freely able to move in and out of the UK and across parts of Europe during the planning and preparation for the attack and why were the UK Government and EU Authorities so lax?

I agree the motive for taking legal action is doubtful but some of the above questions require answers.

Flying Lawyer
9th Apr 2002, 16:31
Your response sounds very much like a lawyer attempting to justify his client's greed. Your presumption that, because he has a substantial income/will receive a considerable insurance payment, the claimant is not motivated by money may be correct - but I've never found the two to be linked.

Even if I'm being too cynical about the motive, I seriously doubt whether a legal action claiming compensation is the best vehicle for achieving the objectives you mention.
If (which I doubt), there is any need for such an investigation, then a formal inquiry to which all parties involved give evidence without being at risk of being ordered to pay enormous sums in compensation is far more likely to be productive.

Max Angle
9th Apr 2002, 16:33
I am suprised it has taken this long for the first case to be filed. I am not in favour of the compensation and sueing culture that the US has and that we are fast catching up on here in the UK, however I think she has a strong case against the airlines.

Fact: Aircraft have been hijacked, often with fatal results many
times in the past.

Fact: The Hijackers need to gain access to the flightdeck to have
any real chance of success. Certainly to fly into a building it
is a requirement to have control of the aircraft.

Fact: Apart from a weak door lock, which outside of the US was
often left unlocked anyway, the airlines, pre Sept 11th have
done nothing to make airline flightdecks secure.

I am not saying that my view on flightdeck security was any different from anyone elses before all this happened but I don't think the courts will look at it that way. I think a good lawyer could prove very easily that the airlines did not take a known threat seriously.

9th Apr 2002, 16:35
... the motive for taking legal action is doubtful ...
In a word, contingency. It's the lawyers who are out to make money.

Ought to be easily defended by AA/UA, who were in compliance with all FAA regulations in force at the time. However, careful selection of a jury with anti-airline sentiments may easily result in a different verdict. Remember in the US,everything is someone's fault - s*it doesn't just happen there.

Flying Lawyer
9th Apr 2002, 16:59
So it's all the lawyers' fault. :rolleyes:
Your faith in human nature is touching. :D

9th Apr 2002, 18:35
My point was that it is nobody's fault. The blame has been pretty well established, and discussion of the cause would fall foul of the religious/political prohibition here.

Most people and probably most lawyers, would regard these acts as unforeseen atrocities and consider any attempt to profit from them as utterly reprehensible (and that's putting it mildly).

The airline is simply a target of opportunity given the difficulty of suing the FAA, CIA, FBI, INS, NSA etc. etc., against whom there might conceivably be a (flimsy) case.

My faith in human nature is undiminshed by the acts of a few unprincipled individuals. And it does not follow that disdain for some of the legal profession indicates disdain for all of it. This kind of opportunist greed certainly does not help, however.

9th Apr 2002, 19:06
But you seem to be saying that the lawyers are showing 'opportunistic greed'.
Lawyers are paid to do what their clients want, just like pilots are paid to fly who and where the pax want.

9th Apr 2002, 19:28
In all fairness, it does seem that he's taking the easiest way to a large pile of dough.

If he did go after it fairly, he would have sued Al Q'aeda or Osama Bin Laden.

But now that would prove to be a little too difficult eh?

t'aint natural
9th Apr 2002, 19:29
The fault lies with Bin Laden, and only with him. He is a relatively wealthy man; his assets are supposedly being tracked about the globe, and can presumably be added to the compensation fund when they come to hand. Blaming AA, the Tower's designers, airport security or anyone else risks losing the plot.

9th Apr 2002, 19:55
I think this is utterly sickening. It's a blatant attempt to make fast bucks out of the suffering of thousands. I sincerely hope that this swine didn't get any of all that charity cash. No-one prepared for such an attack - because no-one (including possibly even some of the hijackers) imagined such an insane event could happen.

9th Apr 2002, 23:40
It is almost certain that the spectacular result of the impacts on the WTCs far exceeded the wildest dreams of the hijackers, not that they survived to gloat.
The fact that they both collapsed as they did could not have been forseen, by anyone. If the woman survived the inital impact, as we know she did, how can they blame AA?
Still, we are not lawyers so what does it matter what we think? It will be decided by a bunch of people who seem to have little grasp of reality. The same people who jail the man who defends his property by hitting the robber with a baseball bat. Who compensate the man whose nose was broken by the airbag after he hit a power pole.
What price sensible law?

10th Apr 2002, 09:11
This is bullsh-t. Thousands died in the WTC attack. What makes her so special?

Not to mention, why should UAL or AA be accountable? UA/AA aren't accountable for this. Osama Bin-Laden is! Why should UAL, or AA, for that matter get sued? There was nothing that could have been done to prevent that hijacking. None of us had ANY idea that this was going to happen. If anyone did, they would have tried to stop it.


10th Apr 2002, 13:46
"t'aint natural" has hit it square on the meat of the bat as we say Downunder.

If litigation like this isn't stepped on very quickly then people will start suing for anything, like "being in possession of an offensive wife" or "breathing in a threatening manner" or "sleeping too slowly".

You may as well:-
i) sue the manufacturer of the aerobridge through which the hijackers boarded the a/c, or
ii) sue the company that made the machines that issued the tickets that allowed others to board the flights, or
iii) sue the manufacturer of the elevators in the World Trade Centre because they failed to work after the buildings were hit by a heavy jet, or
iv) sue the people who were lucky enough to escape from the towers because they didn't stay and die with those less fortunate - or,
v) sue God himself because he is the same god as the Islamic fundamentalists worship and someone's ultimately got to take the blame.

If you feel like venting spleen on lawyers, I have a thread in Jet Blast - "Favourite Lawyer Recipes" - which is a follow-on from "Open Season on Lawyers". Go ahead, let it rip! We are particularly in need of recipes for cooking the lawyers taken in the great lawyer cull to come!

10th Apr 2002, 14:35
ahh...why does London have the most lawyers and Sellafield have the most nuclear waste?

because Sellafield got first pick...

10th Apr 2002, 15:19
This lawsuit is baseless. As I recall, part of the bailout package for U.S. airlines had a piece attached that would limit liability at United and AA. Without it, both airlines would fail under the weight of billions of dollars in lawsuits.
The funny thing is though, in a very roundabout way it is the airlines fault. The Clinton administration was very concerned about airport security and formed a task force to address the problem. The ATA lobbied against the proposal vigorously because they felt that they would inconvenience thier costumers to much by making them subject to harsher security.
This same group staged the most successful lobbying campaign in history when they after Sept. 11 begged congress for billions of dollars in taxpayer funds to bail them out of a situation that theoretically could have been avoided by beefing up security a few years ago.
Strange world.

10th Apr 2002, 17:06
As I understand it aircraft operators are automatically liable for all damage they might cause on the ground, which, in this case would include the people killed/injured etc, the WTC, business interruption, and on and on. Some estimates put the total insurance liability at US$70billion - I don't know if this includes estimates for compensation for those killed/injured.

However, I also believe that the US government limited the airlines liability to the extent that they had insurance to cover it, which is probably in the region of US$3 billion for the two.

10th Apr 2002, 17:42
Since the U.S. Government had declared the attacks an "act of war," it would preclude direct carrier responsibility.

11th Apr 2002, 01:20
The person charged with producing the report into Airline/Airport safety was called Al Gore, anyone remember him?
Had his recommendations been implemented it is quite possible 9/11 would have been prevented.
As mentioned earlier, money talked and the airlines prevailed.
I have a feeling AA and UA are guilty as charged!

11th Apr 2002, 02:12
The Gore Report recommended positive bag matching, xray for checked bags, better training and pay for screeners and instruction on how to 'identify passengers who are a security risk' (profiling). The ACLU objected strenuously to the last one of course. The Gore Report did not recommend banning of <4 inch knives or any other sharp objects, nor did it say anything about hijack-proofing of flight decks.

I'm unclear whether the terrorists were or were not identified by CAPPS, but none of the other suggestions would have made the slightest difference on September 11.